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Tearful Kvitova returns, Venus marks 20th anniversary

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Petra Kvitova celebrates winning her first-round match against Julia Boserup at Roland Garros on May 28, 2017 in Paris © AFP / Lionel BONAVENTURE

PARIS, France, May 28 – Petra Kvitova swept to a tearful French Open victory on Sunday in her first match since surviving a horrifying knife attack which almost ended her career.

The two-time Wimbledon champion downed outclassed Julia Boserup of the United States 6-3, 6-2, falling to her knees in celebration before weeping at the net.

“I’m really glad to have made the decision to play here,” said 27-year-old Kvitova, who was seriously hurt when she tackled an armed intruder at her home in the eastern Czech town of Prostejov in December.

“Thank you for everything, you helped me through this difficult time.

“I won the match today but I knew I had already won,” she added in reference to the initial nightmare scenario in which she feared she’d lose the fingers on her left playing hand.

Kvitova, the 15th seed and a semi-finalist in Roland Garros in 2012, fired nine aces and 31 winners past Boserup, making her debut at the tournament at the age of 25.

Czech star Kvitova will face Bethanie Mattek-Sands or Evgeniya Rodina in the next round.

Roland Garros 2017 will be Venus Williams’ 20th French Open, having played in the Grand Slam every year since 1997, with the exception of 2011 © AFP/File / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE

Timea Bacsinszky, the Swiss 30th seed who made the semi-finals two years ago, was also an early winner, seeing off Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-1, 6-2.

Olympic champion Monica Puig sent veteran Italian Roberta Vinci to her 10th first round loss in 13 visits to Paris, winning 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.

Serena Williams may be missing from this year’s French Open, but big sister Venus is still going strong and marks her Roland Garros 20th anniversary on Sunday.

Three weeks shy of her 37th birthday, the American star, who made her debut in the French capital in 1997, kicks off her latest campaign against China’s Wang Qiang.

– Nine months old –

Williams, seeded 10, has played every year since 1997 with the exception of 2011 and despite her senior citizen status, she is still a contender at the Slams as her run to the Australian Open final in January proved.

Her staggering longevity is illustrated by the fact that her potential second round opponent is compatriot Amanda Anisimova who, at just 15, is the youngest main draw competitor since 2005.

When Venus was losing the 2002 Roland Garros final to Serena, Anisimova was just nine months old.

“I’m here as I still have a lot to give. That just wraps it up,” said Venus, who has never got beyond the quarter-finals in Paris since her runners-up spot 15 years ago.

Anisimova, the Florida-based daughter of Russian parents, made the tournament courtesy of winning the US wild card play-off.

She faces Japan’s world number 94 Kurumi Nara on Sunday.

Elsewhere world number one Angelique Kerber starts against experienced Russian player Ekaterina Makarova.

Kerber was defeated in the first round by unseeded Kiki Bertens 12 months ago and has yet to get past the quarter-finals.

The German left-hander has endured a miserable clay-court season, losing early in Stuttgart and crashing out in her Rome opener, while retiring from her last-16 clash in Madrid with a lower back injury.

Makarova, also left-handed, is a former top tenner who has made at least the quarter-finals of all the majors, except the French Open.

The standout match in the men’s singles sees Austrian sixth seed Dominic Thiem, a semi-finalist in 2016, take on unpredictable Bernard Tomic of Australia.

Thiem is regarded as a potential champion should world number one Andy Murray, defending champion Novak Djokovic or nine-time champion Rafael Nadal slip up.

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